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Bridal Budget Beware

Getting hitched, taking the plunge, tying the knot, jumping the broom--whatever you call it, chances are you know it ain't cheap to say "I do."

But do you know the real sticker price of a wedding these days? You may want to have a seat for this one. According to a 2005 survey by The Fairchild Bridal Group, the average cost of a wedding is $26,327. And no, that's not a typo.

So that's the bad news. The good news is that you can do it for less and still have the wedding of your dreams. And you won't have to cut your guest list down to 10 or have a cash bar at your reception.

But before you begin crunching numbers and cutting budgets, figure out which elements of your wedding are most important. Start with a list of the major bridal expenditures (cake, ceremony/reception location, flowers, food, formal wear, honeymoon, invitations, music, photographer, and videographer) and rate them in numerical order. Once you've done that, you'll have a better understanding of your expectations for your wedding.

So on to the free advice...

Not all 'weddings on a budget' advice has to focus on settling for the next best thing. There are lots of ways to save money and still get precisely what you always dreamed of having. For example:

- Once you've picked out the perfect wedding gown, go online and see if you can find a better price. There are several reliable, online bridal retailers that also operate their own bridal salons--so you won't have to worry about fly-by-night operations and poor customer service. (And yes, they offer brand name gowns.)

- Do the same for your shoes and accessories. Many of these online shops have free shipping and no sales tax--so that's money in your pocket.

- If you're serving alcohol at your reception, ask your caterer if they charge a corkage fee. If they don't, look in to purchasing it through a wholesaler, local retailer, or even online. You're going to get better prices.

- Instead of hiring a professional videographer, get a friend or hire a student from your local university to do the handiwork.

- Ready-made favors can cost upwards of $3 per person. And most of the cost associated with these little tokens of appreciation is labor. So make them yourself...it's not that hard and can be lots of fun!

- Instead of buying expensive, personalized thank you cards, buy boxed thank-you cards. You can find beautiful ones at a card store, bookstore, or stationer.

- If your guests aren't big on dancing, think about skipping the DJ or band. Instead, hire a solo musician for a romantic touch.

- If you're having an outdoor ceremony or reception, use potted plants instead of expensive floral arrangements. Not only will you save money, but you'll get to take the flowers home and watch them grow through the years.

- Have your reception at a local restaurant. Many don't charge a location/rental fee AND you won't have to rent tables, chairs, or linens.

Planning a wedding on a budget doesn't have to be painful. And it certainly doesn't mean that you can't have everything you always dreamed of. It's about being spending your money wisely...and perhaps saving a little so you can buy furniture AFTER the wedding.

Jessica Bonilla is the owner and editor of http://www.e-wedding-planner.com/ -- the source that makes online wedding planning a lot easier.

Copyright 2005.

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